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African press review 23 May 2011

A mixed bag in the African papers today,...


Inaction marked the Extraordinary Summit of Southern African Development Community heads of state in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, this weekend, despite an agenda covering preparations for elections in Zimbabwe, political deadlock in Madagascar, the suspension of the regional court and allegations of corruption within the SADC itself.

In the days leading up to the summit, according to the African Inter Press Service, there was the chance that it might not take place at all, with South African president, Jacob Zuma, pulling out at the last moment, preferring to concentrate on local elections in his own country.

Local newspapers branded the meeting "a farce" over poor preparations and a scathing editorial in the daily newspaper, The Namibian, criticised SADC presidents for a failure to lead that is in sharp contrast to the high ideals of regional integration.

In the end, eleven heads of state and their representatives met in Windhoek, but deliberations lasted only a few hours.

According to The Namibian, civil society groups from Zimbabwe will be among the disappointed.

The "Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition" had called on leaders attending the SADC Extraordinary Summit to lay out clear and firm pre-conditions for democratic and peaceful elections in Zimbabwe.

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the SADC must independently assure the conditions for free and fair elections. The polls must be monitored by local, regional and international groups, and observers should have unfettered access to all parts of the country.

The Coalition, which represents 70 organisations, said the African Union and the United Nations should deploy peace-keeping monitors at least three months before an election date, to prevent state-sponsored violence and intimidation.

The Namibian also reports on a legal challenge to a Canadian mining company’s plan to use underground water to set up a uranium mine in the Namib Desert.

The disputed deal is heading back to the High Court after an appeal judgement that was given in the Supreme Court last week.

An issue that has never before had to be decided by a Namibian court is expected to be at the core of the case between uranium rights holder Valencia Uranium and the owner of a farm in the Usakos area, Namib Plains Farming and Tourism CC, when that matter makes its return to the High Court.

That issue is the question of who has the legal standing to go to court to ask for protection for the environment, which is unable to speak for itself.

In Uganda, The Daily Monitor gives front-page space to opposition leader, Kissa Besigye. And for once, he's not on his way to jail.

The Forum for Democratic Change leader is set to announce the Leader of Opposition on Tuesday to replace Professor Ogenga Latigo, who lost the Agago County seat in February elections.

A closed-door meeting of FDC MPs and the party’s top management on Saturday agreed that Dr Besigye will appoint the Leader of Opposition, subject to approval by the party’s National Executive Committee.

Six MPs have expressed interest in the seat.

The Monitor also reports that police on Friday night stormed the offices of the government broadcaster, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation and locked the offices of top officials before suspending the entire board on allegations of mismanagement.

Police secured the UBC entrance and exit points at around 7:30 on Friday evening, blocking any UBC workers from gaining entrance and prevented anyone from leaving the building with any documents or electronic gadgets.

Staff exiting the premises were subjected to rigorous body and bag searches to ensure that no corporation property, documents or other possible evidence were removed.

Government sources said that President Museveni ordered the action following various reports of fraud, corruption and mismanagement at UBC.

The Monitor says it is not yet clear whether the surprise investigations stem from UBC’s performance during the recent general elections, from coverage of protests across the Arab world, or the way UBC's two television channels and five radio stations have reported the opposition walk-to-work demonstrations.

The paper quotes Jane Kasumba, UBC's public relations officer, as saying “I don’t know what is going on".

According to the Information Ministry in Kampala, suspended UBC managers were supposed to have handed over office yesterday afternoon to Paul Kihika, who has been named acting managing director.

Kihika is Treasurer of the non-governmental Uganda Media Development Foundation, as well as being a commissioner in the Gender and Social Development Ministry.

In Kenya, the Standard says that the Criminal Investigations Department is still probing Eldoret North MP William Ruto in connection with post-election crimes committed in the Rift Valley.

Ruto is likely to face charges associated with the same alleged events at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The on-going Kenyan investigation is, according to The Standard, part of a State drive to convince the International Criminal Court to defer cases against the so-called Ocampo Six (the six accused, including William Ruto) and let Kenya handle them.

The alleged crimes include mass murder, rape and deportation.

Kenya has hired lawyers to help win a referral of the ICC investigations and cases back to Kenya.

That's a challenge lawyers say can only succeed if local authorities can demonstrate there are active local investigations in progress against the suspects.

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